One of our specialities here at Communicate Media is media training for the climate change sector. We provide media interview training workshops for climate change campaigners and charities, as well as investors and asset managers who operate in the ESG, low carbon or carbon offset space. We also provide media training for universities and academic institutions carrying out research into this incredibly important and fast-growing discipline.
What is the role of the media in climate change?
Since all of our media trainers are working journalists (operating under strict non-disclosure agreements), we know very well what journalists are looking for when they report on climate change and what they want to hear from interviewees on the subject.
Climate change has been an issue for many years now, and so the media is looking for something new and different to talk about. This could be a new risk or a new solution. We’re looking for striking figures and quirky facts. But we also need a human angle, such as how these climate change risks and solutions are going to affect ordinary people – or at least the audience for our article or news report.
At Communicate Media, we can use this knowledge to help academics, campaigners, and executives from finance firms give journalists what they’re looking for while also helping these spokespeople to promote positive messages about their own organisations. We can also help them to avoid getting drawn into issues that are, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, risky.
How to do a media interview about climate change
If you’re going to do a successful interview with a journalist about climate change, then there are a number of things that you need to consider. We help the participants in our climate change media training courses to think about these issues before we put them through role-play media interviews. Because, as we’ve said, our trainers are experienced journalists, these training interviews are realistic and authentic – but also completely confidential. They take place in a safe, supportive learning environment.
Here are five tips for doing an interview about climate change
1. The audience
Think about who you’re talking to. Very often, interviewees go wrong during media interviews and don’t get the coverage they want because they haven’t focussed on the readers, listeners, or viewers. If you’re being interviewed on a subject related to climate change, you need to think about who you’re speaking to. Are they investors, academics, business leaders or members of the public? It might be that you’re talking to a mix of these groups. But the point is that you need to think about the messages you’ll put across and the language you’ll use to express those ideas.
If you’re speaking to a financial audience, for instance, then academic and scientific elements will be less important than a return on investment. Similarly, the public will probably only be interested in how climate change affects them and what, in particular, they can do to play their part in mitigating it.
2. The message.
Once you’ve got your audience in mind, you can think about the message that you want to put across. It’s amazing how often in our day job as journalists, we find that people do interviews with us and give us lots of interesting information but have no idea about the overall message they want to get out to their target audiences. This means they have little or no control over the interview – and, more importantly, the final product.
When they work for us in our media training courses for climate change organisations, our media trainers carry out role-play press interviews with the course participants and then provide feedback about the story they would take away and write up. We make the point during the course that you need to think about the message that you want to put across. What’s the headline that you’d like to see? Given that your audience is only going to remember one or perhaps two things from the final report, what do you want them to be?
3. The language.
As part of your focus on your audience, you need to think about your language. The words, phrases and acronyms that might be appropriate for one audience won’t necessarily work for another. NBS might mean something to an audience of academics or campaigners, but will finance people understand it? Similarly, asset managers might be familiar with terms such as “carbon capture” or “mitigation,” but will the public at large know what they mean? Even if your audience can work out what you’re telling them, by the time they’ve jumped this mental hurdle, they’ve missed the next point you’ve made.
Equally important is the fact that you’re literally not speaking their language. Language is about identity and belonging, and if you’re using another language, then you’re not part of my tribe.
4. Stories and examples.
“What’s media training?” people sometimes ask us. We’ve been in the business for nearly 30 years, and it’s changed massively over that time, of course, but to a large extent, what we do in our media training courses is still to get people to tell stories, give examples and share anecdotes.
Stories, case studies, and examples do two things when you’re talking about climate change. First, they illustrate what you mean. Whether it’s carbon capture, Green House Gases (GHG) mitigation, carbon offsetting or Nature Based Solutions (NBS), telling a story or providing an illustration shows your audience what you’re talking about in practice. You’re painting pictures and showing your audience what you mean. How often in life do you say to someone: “For instance,” or “Just imagine”? It’s the same when you’re doing a media interview on climate change. We’ve provided media training for climate change charities and campaigners, as well as carbon offset companies who have some great stories to tell.
The second function stories perform is to prove a point. You might make a claim about the science or the benefits of carbon offsetting or the possibilities for good ROI with a particular investment, but it’s only once you’ve provided us with a case study or example that you’re going to convince your audience. These stories can also tick the “human” box the media always looks for. Many of our media training clients in the climate change space – be that asset managers, campaigners or academics – have some great human stories squirrelled away. In our climate change media training workshops, we help them to identify these case studies and anecdotes and to tell them effectively.
5. The call to action.
You’ve given the journalist a clear message relevant to the report’s audience and provided some great stories, examples, and memorable statistics to back up that key message. But now what? What is your audience supposed to feel, think, and do as a result of your interview?
Do you want them to join your campaign? Do you want them to support your work? Should they make a change to the way they live their lives? Should they consider this kind of investment or think about a certain kind of asset? Thinking carefully about the call to action and then including it – and repeating that call – in your answers is essential. The journalist might well ask you what people are supposed to do, but even if they don’t, introducing this call to action is very important.
Climate Change Media Training
We worked recently with a charity and part of the media training course involved helping them identify the small changes we can all make at home and in our daily lives to reduce our carbon footprint. These practical tips painted a picture and, combined with the science and the big picture, made the whole interview so much more relevant and engaging to general audiences.
Media training for those in the climate change sector is essential to enable spokespeople to deliver great interviews. We like to think that our media interview courses for climate charities, CSR professionals, climate campaigners and carbon offset companies are making a small contribution to managing climate change.